Rep. David Richardson, D-Miami Beach, is currently the only openly LGBT+ member of the Florida legislature. In addition to his campaign, there are seven other openly LGBT+ candidates running during this election cycle. Five of those candidates are running in South Florida, and all the candidates are Democrats. All candidates are in winnable races, though some face an uphill battle against incumbent Republican representatives or crowded Democratic primaries.
Encouragingly, candidates report their LGBT+ identities have not had negative affects on their campaigns. Rep. Richardson, elected for the first time in 2012, was one of Florida’s first openly gay representatives, and says that his sexual orientation was never an issue. Ken Keechl, Broward County’s first openly gay county commissioner and current candidate for Broward County Representative, said that he doesn’t remember any homophobia when he ran 2006. However Keechl states that, “[the Florida Legislature] is a very toxic environment to begin with, and we’re only there for two or three months, but I’m hopeful that it can make a difference.”
With over 60% of Floridians supportive of gay marriage, and more supportive of LGBT+ nondiscrimination laws, some believe that the influx of LGBT+ candidates represents the shape of things to come. Rep. Richardson observes, “When I’m able to stand on the floor and speak on an issue that affects me so personally, then I think it’s more impactful. We’re always going to need our straight allies, but I do think it changes the dynamics to have someone who’s so personally affected talk about it in a way that people can relate to it on a personal level.”